Brand Name Genes

Genome Sequencing Lab Coming to Times Square Tomorrow In the Form of a 1976 Tour Bus

Let the commercialization begin!
screen shot 2012 04 24 at 11 35 21 am Genome Sequencing Lab Coming to Times Square Tomorrow In the Form of a 1976 Tour Bus

Some scientist's idea of steampunk.

Why would you retrofit a 1976 tour bus with cutting-edge gene sequencing technology? More like, why wouldn’t you. New York City residents can see this back-to-the-future experiment in person for the first time tomorrow when Life Technologies’ “Ion Bus” stops by Times Square on Broadway between 46th and 47th Streets, starting at 9am.

Technological advances have lowered the cost of sequencing a human DNA genome down to $1,000, and the bus was designed to “demystify” the science behind that–and promote Life Technologies’s Ion Proton sequencer, of course.

The visit is being hosted by New York Genome Center as part of its effort to promote genomic science, an area of study of particular interest to New York tech investors such as ff Venture Capital’s John Frankel and Esther Dyson. (You can watch a brief talk by Ms. Dyson on the direct-to-consumer genome market here.)

The New York Genome Center (NYGC), which plans on opening its doors in early 2013, hopes to create an economic corridor for personalized medicine right here in Manhattan. The center is a collaboration between 11 partner institutions that reach more than 10 million patients. Its emphais on commercializing genomic research could become a catalyst for local biotech and heath startups.

During tomorrow’s event, NYGC and Life Technologies will conduct “a live sequencing demonstration on a non-virulent strain of E. coli” to demonstrate the difference between a harmless strain and the virulent one found discovered in fenugreek sprouts after an outbreak in Germany last spring. “NOTE,” says the press release, “There WILL NOT be any harmful E. coli on the bus. Only DATA from the deadly strain will be shown.” Well that certainly takes the thrill out of a lab demo.

So, can we get our DNA sequenced if we show up with $1,000? “The bus will not be conducting DNA genome sequencing,” NYGC’s PR rep told Betabeat. “New York State has specific legal regulations regarding delivering sequencing results to consumers that precludes the bus from being able to do that (but it would be awesome).” Agreed.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com